The Oberlin Review

KXL Gives Hope for Further Legislation

Kiley Petersen, Opinions Editor

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Although I’m not usually a fan of dramatic and symbolic political acts, I couldn’t help but feel pleased on Tuesday night when President Obama kept to his word and vetoed the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would bring oil from Alberta, Canada, to Steele City, NE. Despite the expected outcome, the news still left me feeling cheerful. After just a few months of the new Republican-majority Congress, I was already down in the dumps about the state of our nation and its grave problems of social and environmental justice. The vetoing of the pipeline is a symbolic rallying point for moderate Democrats and extreme environmentalists alike, and possibly the first in a wave of environmental reforms that have been lacking in the 21st century.

I have no grand illusions about the actual impact of the pipeline. Despite the left framing its impact as “the death knoll for climate change,” KXL — just one of several pipelines in the Keystone network — was not going to be the straw that broke the

camel’s back as far as environmental damage goes. However, the pipeline would have had significant local impact, as KXL would have passed through the Ogallala Aquifer in the Great Plains, potentially leaking into the already-depleted water table. And KXL would have been one of the largest pipelines in our country, transporting oil to the many refineries in the Midwest and South, making the sheer volume of the operation a cause for concern. The veto, therefore, is both a mobilizing event for concerned environmentalists and lawmakers and a victory for the people whose water and land might have been affected by the pipeline.

Immediately after the announcement on Tuesday, the right began publicly organizing for a Congressional override, as predicted. Despite the veto’s political ineffectiveness, KXL has already been widely discussed in the media, and now the conversation about natural gas compared to alternative energy sources can really begin. An official veto from the president gives a backing to environmentalists and a morale boost for the left. I can only hope that moderate Republican legislators will be swayed by the public’s increasing environmental awareness, and with an economy on the upswing, hopefully their constituents will agree. Currently, the Republican majority does not have enough votes to override the veto.

The People’s Climate March in 2014 was the largest environmental demonstration in America since the ’70s, and I’m predicting that the environmental movement will see this resurgence in support continue over the next 10 years. The addition of social media campaigns will only aid in the public’s knowledge about climate change, and hopefully this public support will transfer to real legislation.

By framing KXL as both a national security issue and a moral issue, the left’s agenda has the potential to appeal to both moderate Republicans and Democrats alike. After the failed Kerry-Graham-Lieberman bill in 2010, no real climate legislation was attempted in Congress, as immigration took the spotlight. Now KXL will hopefully open the public’s eyes to environmental concern, and I can only hope that our Republican-majority Congress responds.

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